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New York's Fun-Focused Dance Team | Not Dead Yet

The 'Broad City' collaborators explain their position at the crossroads of dance and comedy.

by Lorelei Ramirez
Mar 28 2016, 7:00pm

(Left to right: Eleanore Pienta, Tallie Medel, Sunita Mani) Cocoon Central Dance Team. Photo by Eleanore PIenta.

Ever gaze out your window and wonder what you're missing out on? Perhaps feel an overwhelming sense of dread thinking about your mortality? Not Dead Yet is a column dedicated to finding the most exciting, experimental, funny, and out-of-this-world work, so that you won’t have to worry about missing out. With interviews and features like these, you’ll totally forget that death is at your door. 

Forget about all of your Monday quabbles and take a moment to feast your heart, eyes, and soul on Cocoon Central Dance Team. Sure to turn your day around, this comedy and dance group choreographs some of the most enjoyable, silly, strange, and mesmerizing dances you’ll see today. Cocoon Central Dance Team is composed of the minds of Sunita Mani, Tallie Medel, and Eleanore Pienta—accomplished actors in their own right.

The three met at Emerson College where they developed a friendship, a sketch team, and a plan to move to the big city. Soon after fooling around as a dance team for their friends, they were embraced by New York comedy, dance, and art communities that have recognized these women as a force of nature. From appearances at MoMa PS1, NYC Marathon, Broad City, IFC, Women and Comedy Festival, and currently in production with their short film SNOWY BING BONGS ACROSS THE NORTH STAR COMBAT ZONE, these three are truly making a mark.

The Creators Project spoke to the Cocoon Central Dance Team about working on stage, online, and on EXTREME: 

Cocoon Central Dance Team. Photo by Eleanore Pienta

The Creators Project: Your performance has been embraced by a great deal of comedy venues, did you see your work propelling into this arena?

Eleanore Pienta (EP): Because it started in the comedy context, it seemed like a natural progression. 

Sunita Mani (SM): To me, our evolution has been really organic because we didn't really set out to do anything other than just dance for fun and because it made us laugh. So we just said yes to whatever came to us—it was a chance to perform this fun thing, why not?—and it has grown into this comedy outfit that we've defined more clearly and projected farther.

Tallie Medel (TM): I love how we've been on stages beyond comedy venues; that's been more of a surprise, doing the opening ceremony for the NYC Marathon and CAST PARTY at the Skirball Center, more dance-world stuff. Because we're trying to be funny. 

Still from SNOWY BING BONGS ACROSS THE NORTH STAR COMBAT ZONE. Photo by Alex Fischer

Any specific influences that drove you to where you are now?

SM: I relish in the pageantry, showmanship, and precision of dance teams earnestly trying to do a good job. I've never really fit the look of this kind of dancer either. In my experience, she's a really conventionally pretty white, blonde girl with like a beautiful hairline and big straight white teeth and not too skinny, and like, has strong calves. 

TM: Definitely growing up watching music videos, and subverting the female sexuality I grew up mimicking and adoring. Space Ghost Coast to Coast is a big influence on me.

EP: I grew up watching Monty Python, so their physicality certainly had an affect on how I saw comedy, "Ministry of Silly Walks," anyone?  But to be honest, Sunita, Tallie, and Caity [Widness] all inspired and continue to inspire me in terms of performance.

What does the future of Cocoon Central look like? I mean... in EXTREME ideals.

SM: We bang out a spectacular dance comedy television show, make this fucking awesome movie in drag that we've been talking about for years, then we all become incredible Oscar winning actresses in our own right and nod to each other from afar on the red carpet. 

TM: A tour, especially a hometown tour. A series and a feature or two. And I would love to do another show when we're in our 70s or 80s, depending on how busy we are. You understand.

EP: We successfully make a television show that has a cult following. Possibly make a music video for Missy Elliott or Kendrick Lamar or Beyoncé. 

What would you say is the primary difference between your work on stage and online?

SM: We tend to explode more on stage and often times it's more about the spectacle and physicality. On screen, we have a different silliness and absurdity as the heightened version of ourselves vs. playing more obviously character based stuff on stage.

TM: REHEARSAL was a way for us to use dialogue, praise be to Alex Fischer (our director). It's extremely minimal; one room. Whereas onstage, we've got lights and crystals all over our faces and costumes.

EP: Translating dance to video can be really hard because the energy exchange between audience and performer is so important, but I think on stage or screen, the aesthetic and fundamentals of our humor remain the same.

You all die tomorrow in a horrible plane crash, nothing is left behind accept the memories of your performance and some videos. What impact do you hope your work leaves in the world?

SM: Spread joy and be supportive of your fellow man and also be a fool sometimes. Most importantly, ANYONE AND EVERYONE CAN DANCE!  it's the key to happiness. 

TM: To tell the children: Nothing is funnier or more fun than dancing and laughing with your heroes. And that everybody is in charge of their own filthy sexuality. 

EP: Joy and thinking. 

Cocoon Central Dance Team. Screenshot from CASTPARTY on Netflix

Click here to learn more about Cocoon Central Dance Team.

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